Soils in which fresh produce is grown can become contaminated with foodborne pathogens and are sometimes then abandoned or removed from production. The application of biochar has been proposed as a method of bioremediating such pathogen-contaminated soils. The objectives of the present study were to evaluate three fast-pyrolysis–generated biochars (FPBC; pyrolyzed in house at 450, 500, and 600°C in a newly designed pyrolysis reactor) and 10 United Kingdom Biochar Research Center (UKBRC) standard slow-pyrolysis biochars to determine their effects on the viability of four surrogate strains of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in soil. A previously validated biocidal FPBC that was aged for 2 years was also tested with E. coli to determine changes in antibacterial efficacy over time. Although neither the UKBRC slow-pyrolysis biochars or the 450 and 500°C FPBC from the new reactor were antimicrobial, the 600°C biochar was biocidal (P < 0.05); E. coli populations were significantly reduced at 3 and 3.5% biochar concentrations (reductions of 5.34 and 5.84 log CFU/g, respectively) compared with 0.0 to 2.0% biochar concentrations. The aged 500°C FPBC from the older reactor, which was previously validated as antimicrobial, lost efficacy after aging for 2 years. These results indicate that the biocidal activity of FPBC varies based on production temperature and/or age.

  • FPBC (600°C) was biocidal in soil.

  • Significant E. coli reductions occurred with 3% biochar (w/w) over 7 weeks.

  • Biochars that were fast pyrolyzed at 450 and 500°C were not biocidal.

  • Antimicrobial FPBC that had been aged for 2 years was not biocidal.

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